TO BE THE LIGHT
Rabbi David Walk
Just last week, in my article, I discussed the status of our synagogues as the replacement for the
But first a bit of a tangent. The real menorah topic in our parsha is about the olive oil used for lighting it. Our Torah reading begins: And you shall command the children of
However, I think the continued fascination with the Menorah comes from our interest in the flame. Although the flame can represent many ideas, like enlightenment or spirituality, and humans have always been fascinated by flames, which can produce an almost hypnotic state, I think the most potent idea comes from Psalm 67. This poem appears on most Shiviti posters written calligraphically in the form of the Menorah. The critical passage is right near the beginning of the work: God be gracious to us, and bless us; and let Your face shine upon us. The light bathing us in its glow is meant to conjure up the image of God turning towards us with Divine illumination. It can be said that the quality of any human existence may be measured by the purity of the light they receive from God. We believe that there are an infinite variety of categories of this light. The Midrash informs us that the original light produced during the Creation period was so perfect that it was stored away for some future time. All the light which has existed since then is lesser forms of that original prototype. It is said that Moshe received a clearer form of light from God than other prophets, akin to that original form. And the rest of us non-prophets? Well, we muddle along in a twilight of God's light.
Continuing on this theme, Rav Yehuda Amital OB"M, the late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etziyon, discussed this issue in 2003. He explained the difference between the incense and the Menorah. The incense, which had to be ignited when only that cohen actually doing the burning was in the
The Slonimer Rebbe (Reb Shalom Noach Barzovski, 1911-2000) in his Netivot Shalom, explains that the light of the Menorah wasn't important for its physical flames. Rather the idea was spiritual. These flames weren't essential for the light which they cast, but for the mood they motivate. They represented the glow of Godliness which they were meant to spread. They contribute to the understanding of the seven character traits (chesed-kindness, gevura-courage, tiferet-splendor, netzach-eternity, yesod-foundation, hod-majesty, malchut-royalty) represented by the seven braches of the Menorah, and ultimately indicate to
The famous American writer, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) once wrote: There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. I believe that both methods are true. Our Torah is teaching us that we begin by reflecting the light of our Menorah in our holy places, but eventually we must emerge from our private places to become the candles for the entire world, lighting the way to greater spirituality.
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